In many aspects this has been a good week for the Astros as they hired their new manager Joe Espada, and it appears GM Dana Brown was firmly in charge of the process.
On the other hand, we've seen numerous reports about Alex Bregman's future, or lack their of, in an Astros uniform. Bob Nightengale and our own John Granato are hearing that this will likely be Bregman's last year with the club, and he will undoubtedly receive a contract offer that the Astros will be unwilling to match.
Granato has also reported Bregman is buying a house in Arizona, read into that what you will.
Manny Machado received an 11-year contract extension last season worth $350 million, which includes a no-trade clause with no op-outs. And if you compare Bregman's career numbers to Machado's, you could make a case Breggy deserves as much if not more.
Machado’s lifetime batting average: .279. On-base percentage: 339. Slugging:.490. OPS: .829.
Bregman’s lifetime batting average :. 274. On-base percentage: .373. Slugging: .487. OPS: .861.
We know the Astros don't hand out deals with this many years on them, so we need to prepare for life after Bregman. Which brings us to Kyle Tucker. As it stands now, most believe Tucker will leave the following year, for the same reason as Bregman.
Justin Verlander is another player to keep an eye on. If he doesn't reach 140 innings pitched in 2024, his deal for 2025 won't vest, and he could be gone after the 2024 season.
On the bright side, it looks like the Astros will work to re-sign Jose Altuve, but to be fair, he's not looking for an 10-year deal. Altuve will be 34 in May, and reportedly would like to play until he's 40. The Astros may not want to go that many years, but a 4-year deal could make a lot of sense for both parties.
But based on everything that was outlined above, we can make the case that the 2024 season will be the last legitimate opportunity for the Astros to cement their dynasty with a third championship.
Plus, when preparing for life after Bregman and one year later Tucker, there's one player in particular that could make us feel better as the team transitions in 2024 and 2025.
Jeremy Pena. If Pena can return to form and hit 20-25 home runs and bat around .250, we would feel a lot better about losing Bregman's bat in the infield. He's also a right-handed hitter like Bregman that could take advantage of the Crawford Boxes.
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Dec 6, 2023, 3:19 pm
Houston has been blessed to see some good sports teams over the years. Luv Ya Blue Oilers, ketchup & mustard Rockets, Astros dynasty, even the Texans had a period in which they were playoff contenders every season for a few years. While there has been a lot of heartbreak, there's also been some satisfying moments. Despite what some may think, it hasn't been all doom and gloom.
The Rockets ('94 & '95) and Astros ('17 & '22) have both won titles. While the other teams haven't, they've provided enough moments and memories. The one thing I noticed that puzzled me: I don't think all these teams have been competitive and contenders at the same time. Not just that, but have they all been good moving forward? I don't think so.
The Astros could be towards the end of their run. The window can stay open if general manager Dana Brown makes the right moves. As seen in the tweet above, Joe Espada is over the moon about becoming the manager. The players and organization both wanted the move. It was a natural fit to promote him from bench coach to manager. He's been there since 2018 and in MLB coaching since 2006 (a year after he retired from AAA ball). At 48 years old, Espada is young enough to still be able to relate to his players, but experienced enough to teach and lead them.
The same can be said for the Rockets' Ime Udoka (46) and Texans' DeMeco Ryans (39). Both guys are former player who reached the highest professional level in their respective sports. Both were a coach's dream when they played because they were smart and played hard. Both took over teams that were terrible for a while and have been rebuilding. Now they're expected to start working towards contention.
When the Rockets were winning their titles, the Oilers were on their way out of town and the Astros were playoff contenders. When the Astros won their titles, the Rockets were trying to win one of their own in '17, but were the butt of jokes in '22. Meanwhile, the Texans were below .500 in each of those seasons. The 2018–19 seasons were the last time all three made the playoffs at the same time.
I believe we will be seeing a lot more seasons like that coming in the future. Each of these coaches have a presence about themselves. Their players love them and they're smart guys. They know how to get the best out of the teams they're on. They're all former players who can identify with the players of today because of their age and proximity from the game after their playing days were over.
Each team's fan base is excited about the potential. The Astros are the easiest ones to see succeed soon, since they just won a title last year and still have some major pieces coming back. The Texans are enjoying a resurgence under rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud. The Rockets have a little further to go, but the building blocks are in place. I wouldn't be surprised if we see all three teams in the playoffs as early as this current season, or the season coming in the Astros' case. Odds on who wins the next title will get very interesting over the next few years. Who do you think wins the next one? My money is on the team that has white in its colors.